Is there anything better than heading to your local nursery on the weekend, picking up some happy plants, and then finding their perfect home in your space? It’s pretty much the best. But that simple, undeniable joy makes their inevitable wilting and eventual downfall all the more heartbreaking. Yep, another plant bites the dust. There goes that ficus, too. So what’s to blame for your big bad black thumb? We spoke with horticulture expert and owner of one of Los Angeles’s top nurseries, Mickey of Mickey Hargitay Plants, to get the scoop and help you keep your plants thriving. Read on!
Cacti, succulents, and air plants get marketed as indestructible, easy-to-care-for plant options for the black-thumbed. In reality, all of these plants need sunlight and regular watering. They need good light in order to flourish, or else you’re assigning them “a slow death,” Mickey told me. If you want your succulent to stay plump and healthy, it’s better to get them some sun and water weekly.
The move from a nursery into your home can be tough on your plants. Reduce the trauma by keeping your plants in their original grow pots for a short while—a few weeks, at least. Once acclimated, you can repot into the planter of your choosing.
On a similar note, though you may think you need to repot your plant as it grows, most houseplants—which are usually tropical plants—are highly evolved to be able to survive on the floor of the jungle with very limited soil space. These root systems will be just fine.
It can be tempting to nurture the heck out of your plants. Mickey told me most people tend to kill their plants by overwatering. In order to avoid this common occurrence, pay attention the soil wetness, only watering when the soil is dry. Water your plants on a schedule—every Sunday or every other Sunday, for example—and then check in with the soil.
Have you been operating under the assumption that water and sunlight is all your plants need? I was! Mickey says that giving your plants plant food should be a regular part of your watering regiment. Nitrogen (good for growth), phosphorus, and potassium (for root structure and blooming) will ensure your plans thrive rather than simply survive.
Not all light is made equal, just as not all plants are! Do some research into the particular type of light your plant needs, and adjust their placement accordingly. For example, the trendy fiddle-leaf figs require a window with plenty of sunlight. Yes, it may look great tucked into a corner in your bedroom, but it simply won’t flourish that way. Most plants want an east- or west-facing window spot, or a north-facing window with no obstructions.
Some plants, especially popular houseplants like dracaena, do just fine in dimmer spaces. Take the time to research the needs of what you’re buying before getting attached to any one idea.
Don’t throw in the towel upon first sight of yellowing, wilting, or dropped leaves. Rather, pay attention to the nature of these problems and adjust accordingly. Yellow, distorted growth on new leaves might be a sign of overwatering, whereas a sudden loss of older leaves might mean your plant is thirsty.
“My apartment has really bad air quality… that’s why my plants keep dying!” Heard that before? It’s actually totally bogus. Plants are natural air purifiers, so there’s no reason your air quality should be killing them. Instead, consider the quality of light and make sure you’re watering them the right amount.